In today’s crowded girl group landscape, perhaps less is more.
Fourth generation K-pop is often characterized by its experimental qualities and boisterousness. On the girl group side, that characterization has recently equated to powerful vocals and heavy genre mixing within tracks, as with groups like SM Entertainment’s Aespa and new JYP girl group N Mixx.
Now, HYBE (known primarily for its management of boy groups like BTS, TXT, and Enhypen) is jumping into a busy mix of recently-debuted girl groups with one of their own, Le Sserafim. While HYBE recently managed the now-disbanded GFriend as a result of its acquisition of Source Music, Le Sserafim is the first girl group the company is launching from scratch, also in partnership with Source Music.
The six-member group’s debut has been highly anticipated ever since the announcement that Sakura and Chaewon, formerly of the Produce 48-formed group Iz*One, had signed exclusive contracts with HYBE back in 2021. Since Sakura’s and Chaewon’s signing with the company, HYBE added four additional members to the group, Ga-ram, Eun-chae, Kazuha, and Yun-jin.
Before the release of their debut title track and MV, “Fearless,” the group’s teasers and each member’s trailers already signaled that HYBE was up for the challenge of bringing a completely different concept to the table. Le Sserafim’s group teaser, entitled “The World Is My Oyster,” has a certain je ne sais quoi to it — its vibe isn’t quite girl crush, and it certainly isn’t bubblegummy cute either. There’s a nuanced kind of simplicity, elegance, and rawness about the teaser that puts the group’s concept into a completely new category.
“Fearless,” the group’s debut title track, follows the unique vibes of “The World Is My Oyster” teaser for the most part, albeit in a more subdued, stripped down fashion. Musically, the track is a bit of a surprising departure from the mostly upbeat, rock-inspired instrumentals played in the group’s teaser trailers. But still, it’s the complete opposite of any title track release from any girl group this year or in recent memory — minimalist, restrained, and almost hushed.
While “Fearless” overall takes on a more muted tone, its anti-drop and repetitive chorus without much vocal variation put a damper on the uniqueness of its concept. The choice to lead the pre-chorus to a downbeat chorus is certainly interesting upon first listen, but almost does the track a disservice in terms of its catchiness and longevity for the average listener. There are a few standout vocal moments from during the verses and pre-chorus that keep “Fearless” engaging almost until the end, but at times its simplicity does more harm than good.
Like the track itself, the MV for “Fearless” encompasses much of the same straightforwardness, for better or for worse. Based off of its instrumentals and vocals alone, “Fearless” immediately has a sultriness to it that’s often unheard of in rookie groups. But, in the sense that some of Le Sserafim’s members are still in their teens, while others are well into adulthood, HYBE and Source Music have a delicate line to balance in how they choose to have the members depict this kind of concept visually.
This line comes into question throughout various points of the MV — specifically, in its choreography. The choreography of “Fearless” is without a doubt one of the MV’s highlights, as it adds an extra dimension to an at-times surface-level song. At the same time, however, a few individual parts and moves are on the more suggestive side, especially for a group with young, rookie members. The choice to showcase the members in this light is questionable, but it doesn’t take too much away from the MV as a whole.
Taken as a whole, the MV’s minimalism still sets up its unique aesthetic sufficiently. CGI scenes are few and far in-between, and much of the MV is performance-based, proving Le Sserafim’s already strong on-screen presence. Much of the MV takes place in a fairly empty, white gym, with the members wearing primarily black clothing to create an obvious contrast between the two colors than only enhances the group’s unrivaled concept.
Eyebrow-raising moments and downbeat musical misses aside, “Fearless” is still a promising venture from HYBE and Source Music into the fourth generation girl group arena. Le Sserafim has a lot going for them, and with the right choices and strategy from their companies, they’ll continue to carve out a unique path for themselves as they grow as a group.